Interview of Portia Jackson

Interviewer: 00:33 Okay, so the first question is may I have you say your first and last name with the spelling too please.

Portia Jackson: 00:39 My name is Portia Jackson, and it’s P-O-R-T-I-A-J-A-C-K-S-O-N.

Interviewer: 00:56 So referring to this map right here, have you lived in this area, do you live, or…
Portia Jackson: 01:03 I live there now.

Interviewer: 01:05 How long have you lived there?
Portia Jackson: 01:05 I bought a house on 15th and Bryant three years ago.

Interviewer: 01:11 Okay, okay, so thinking back from you first moving to this area, what changes have you seen? Can I just get one positive and one negative change.
Portia Jackson: 01:18 Well, I actually have lived off and on in north Minneapolis from, we move here from Chicago in September, September 1992.

Portia Jackson: 01:28 So I lived off and on here for 25 years. One positive, one positive thing that I think when I think of this neighborhood in north Minneapolis is just the community. It is reminiscent of what I was used to living in Gary and Chicago. You know, just having, being able to go outside and you know, kick it on your block and not having to, you know, go to the mall or something like that. I think we chose areas that, you know, people where we knew, people that were like us so we had that comradery and it helped us to kind of get more solidified in this cold, cold place, that is Minnesota. So I think that’s great, that the sense of community.

Portia Jackson: 02:11 So negative things are, I just think the thing is just the stereotype, like not the actual thing that happened, but the things that people think, because you know I’ve worked in a lot of different places, I used to work in Washington County up until like two months ago, and you know, they go oh you live in north Minneapolis, and they just see there’s like a war zone and just like, it’s nothing like that. It’s my home, it’s where I live, it’s where I have my kids, you know, it’s where I have my dogs, it’s where my mom lives, and you know we chose very intentionally to buy over here because we wanted to combat gentrification as much as we could, so yeah, the one thing I think is negative is actually some of that, you know it’s just a mindset and not actually a negative.

Portia Jackson: 02:53 If you’re here and actually in the communities.

Interviewer: 02:55 Right, so, what do you feel caused those changes that you’ve seen in this area? And like, after you answer that, can you tell me why you feel like that?
Portia Jackson: 03:06 Well the changes, well the biggest changes from when we first moved here til now is that north Minneapolis used to be a lot whiter than what it is. Cause the black people, we lived on 31st and Oliver, and across the street all of our neighbors owned the homes, all of em were white, and I just remember that, and you know, that was weird for me cause coming from south side Chicago and living in Gary where there are no white people really at all except for teachers and doctors.

Portia Jackson: 03:32 It was just kind of odd and then over the years it’s become, you know that area that I lived in, has become more of a, you know, a ghetto for a lack of a better term. I don’t think it’s a ghetto at all but just you know, lower income people and housing isn’t as nice as it used to be and a lot of it has been torn down. So I think some of the changes that I see now are that, you know, there are a lot of us here and that a lot of us are still buying homes in Minneapolis, they’re trying to kick us out, they’re trying to price us out but we’re still standing strong and staying here.

Interviewer: 04:12 Right.
Portia Jackson: 04:13 Which is great, and it’s, yeah.

Interviewer: 04:16 Okay so we are gathering these stories to increase the understanding between the city of Minneapolis and the community on the impact of historical discriminatory government policies and practices in areas like housing, transportation, economic development and more.
Portia Jackson: 04:35 Uh huh.

Interviewer: 04:35 Examples include housing and employment discrimination in the early 20th century…
Portia Jackson: 04:39 Uh huh.

Interviewer: 04:39 The war on drugs in the 1990s and others…
Portia Jackson: 04:42 Uh huh.

Interviewer: 04:42 What impacts have these policies or others had on the community in general?
Portia Jackson: 04:49 Well its funny that you should ask because I actually work in housing, I am the program manager for PRG, for their home ownership advising services. We are located in south Minneapolis but we build most of our houses and we have most of our houses in north Minneapolis. I actually bought a PRG rehab house on 15th and Bryant three years ago. So, and the other thing about that is, in my profession I also have ran a home buyer’s club that is for historically black women in partnership with BWWA and Kenyon McKnight High, so we actually have two different sessions, one that started in November one that started in March and the first thing that we did and the whole purpose of us focusing on that particular population was to kind of let people know, black, let black women know that you don’t necessarily not own a home because it was just a choice, there’s a system that was set up for you not to own a home. Like it was just set up for you, it wasn’t for you.

Portia Jackson: 05:45 So that’s why, you know it may not be prevalent, you might not see, you know, these things say oh you know, you see check cashing places and you see rent to own and contract for deed, but you don’t see straight up do you want to buy a piece of land?

Portia Jackson: 05:59 So that’s something that I, even though I was working in Washington County when I was doing it, which is miles away, I can to north Minneapolis to have this home buyer club that was six weeks long, we made sure that we had professionals that came in and looked like us, so most of the realtors and loan officers, and closers and things like that were black women, just so that they could see that, you know, there was redlining and there was reasons why certain neighborhoods are a little poorer or darker than other ones, just because that’s the way it was laid out.

Portia Jackson: 06:33 And what, you know, I wanted people to know is that most times they’re thinking I want to get out of here, I wanna buy in Wrentham Park, I wanna buy in Robinsdale, I wanna buy in

[inaudible 00:06:43]

, and my whole thing is, no you want to buy here. You wanna buy here because this is where you are, this is where your roots are, you know, north Minneapolis is right near downtown, like we are in a great spot. Where I live and then north, is a great spot to be and I know that because there’s a house that sold two blocks away from me for 480,000 dollars.

Portia Jackson: 07:02 So, it’s just I want people to take pride in where they’re at, and purchase where they live, and you know, raise their children here. Because, you know, even though we all got bunched in here because of not so great things, because of redline and government practices that kind of discriminate against us, you have to make the best of it, you make the best out of everything else, you know, we take rotten peaches and make peach cobbler. We take the worst part of the pig and make chitlins, like we just, you know, we make lemonade out of lemons all the time. And I feel like even though this started as something that was to keep us from being in the better places, we can make where we’re at the best place possible.

Interviewer: 07:46 Do you feel like they had impact on you or your family personally?
Portia Jackson: 07:49 Aw yeah, cause, yeah, because when I grew up my mom didn’t own a home, my dad did but it was back in Gary so that’s different, you know it’s just different. So here, I just never even thought about it, even as an adult, I’m like I’ll rent it’s fine, it’s cool, that’s just not for me, I’ll never be able to get a loan from a bank, I’ll never be able to borrow that much money, mortgage be too expensive. And at some point, you know, I was receiving Section 8 and they got to the point they’re like, well your Section 8 voucher amount is 1250, like you gotta pay 1250. I said well thank you for your, you know, all the stuff you give me but now you can move on cause I’m paying 1250 I should be able to do private market or buy or whatever.

Portia Jackson: 08:29 So then we went to private market for a couple of years, and that was expensive you know we were paying 1500 dollars to live in a 4 bedroom in south Minneapolis which is very nice, it was a nice neighborhood, but I’m thinking if I can pay this my landlord bought this house for 120, why am I paying him double for what he’s paying for his mortgage. So I started to reach out to agencies that dealt with home ownership, one of the agencies is Billwelth Minnesota, which is in north Minneapolis -shout out to David McGhee. So that’s where I actually got my mortgage from and I bought my house from PRG which develops property in north Minneapolis. So I think that, Minnesota, Minneapolis, [inaudible 00:09:12] County is taking a real stake in saying that we do need to develop, we do need to have green homes north, we do need to have these things for people to stay in the community. We do need to make sure these are only available to people under 80 percent A.M.I. whatever the case may be, and it should be affordable for them to buy. I think that was very intentional, and I think it was great that that happened because without that without having those programs without having the mortgage product that I ended up getting in to, I wouldn’t be able to buy at all and I definitely wouldn’t be able to buy the size of house that I have, because I have five children, there were five bedrooms, 2,000 square foot with a huge lot.

Portia Jackson: 09:49 So, we wouldn’t be able to do that in south Minneapolis, so yeah.

Interviewer: 09:54 Okay, okay. So what changes have you seen in this community that raise your level of stress, or concern about it’s future?
Portia Jackson: 10:00 Gentrification, with a capital G, and an exclamation point at the end.

Portia Jackson: 10:05 Like I said, house sell for 480,000 dollars somebody bought it for 160 and sold it for almost half a million dollars. Which I understand that you have to make a profit, you know, and I’m part of my neighborhood association and this person actually is part of my neighborhood association, so you know we have emails and things. An email came through and was just like, you know, you took an affordable 160,000 dollar home that somebody could have bought and lived in as a family, you essentially flipped it and sold it for three times what you bought it for.

Portia Jackson:10:36 That bothers me and the response to me was, well this house, you know, people use code words, well this house was never meant for people for affordable housing. This house, what this house was built in 1907, so 110 years ago they weren’t thinking about what’s going on now.

Portia Jackson: 10:53 So just because something was intended for a certain population or intended for somebody at this time, doesn’t mean that things don’t change, neighborhoods change and then now this house, in north Minneapolis is 160,000, I believe that it woulda been better suited for someone that is from the neighborhood to go in and buy it. I don’t know who bought it, I’m hoping that it was somebody that is from the neighborhood but most people I know don’t buy 408,000 dollar houses.

Portia Jackson: 11:18 So, to me that’s an issue because I don’t believe that anybody that comes in and does that is gonna take advantage, not take advantage, but just be immersed in the actual community. Yeah you’re gonna be immersed in my neighborhood association because they make it they have wine and cheese parties and all those great things, but it’s not you know, them coming to Shiloh, them having their kids do stuff at [inaudible 00:11:43], like they’re not doing that kind of stuff, that’s not what they’re doing, so.

Interviewer: 11:47 Right, so what part does the City of Minneapolis need to play in relieving that stress?
Portia Jackson: 11:51 I think the City, because of where I work, and I do home ownership advisement so I help people get ready to buy houses, I help them get out of foreclosure things like that. We also do development and we used to develop a lot more houses than we do now because the money isn’t there. Because even though there’s cheap lots, they talk about all these vacant lots in Minneapolis, north Minneapolis especially that are very cheap, if you were to build a house on those lots you couldn’t sell the house for what you built it for. So we can spend 275,000 dollars a house on a house but for the people that we want to live in it we couldn’t sell it for more than 190,000 dollars. So that meants the City of Minneapolis, [inaudible 00:12:27] County, somebody, the state, needs to come in and give us those gap funds so that we are able to do those things for people that need it.
Portia Jackson: 12:37 They even say well if you don’t build new you can just rehab. My house is rehabbed and it cost just as much as it did to build a brand new house.

Portia Jackson: 12:45 So, it’s like the money, we need money.

Interviewer: 12:49 What gives you hope for this future in this community?
Portia Jackson: 12:53 I think young people like you, you know, doing things that are positive. That are, actually looking at issues and saying you know what, I think we got a way to figure this out. Cause you always need somebody fresh and new cause you know like me, I get jaded I get cynical after a while cause you just live through stuff you live through stuff and after awhile you just like ain’t nothin gonna change, it’s always gonna be the same blah blah blah blah blah. But I think just having young people that don’t have that experience of always being pushed down that have the optimism, I mean you have the world at your fingertips. We didn’t, I didn’t even have that 20 years ago as a teenager, so I just think that having the young people to really be able to be creative and flourish in their community and are supported by people and hopefully being funded by people as well to do good work. I think that’s the greatest thing.

Interviewer: 13:45 Okay, what part does the City of Minneapolis need to play in making more hope for the future for us?
Portia Jackson: 13:51 Just really listening to the community. And not just the folks that have the loudest voices cause you know, my association is very loud and they have a lot to say about not having multifamily dwellings being built on their street and things like that. But not just the people that come to the meetings, go to the people that work all day. Cause when I’m out working all day at 5 o’clock at night I’m coming home I’m not coming to the meeting, I don’t wanna do all that. But reach out to those people in any way you can, I don’t care if it’s Facebook, if you can go visit their door, if you talk to the kids and give them something to give to their parents, whatever the case may be just talk to the people that are in the community and not just the people that have the loudest voices.

Interviewer: 14:28 Right. Okay so these last three questions, are top of the mind, you don’t really have to dive that deep.
Portia Jackson: 14:36 Okay.

Interviewer: 14:37 You can tell me if you want to…
Portia Jackson: 14:37 You’re like look, stop talking so much lady.

Interviewer: 14:39 No, I’m saying you want to, go ahead…
Portia Jackson: 14:39 No, it’s all good.

Interviewer: 14:39 But if you don’t want to, you know…
Portia Jackson: 14:39 Right.

Interviewer: 14:44 Just letting you know.
Portia Jackson: 14:44 Okay.

Interviewer: 14:45 So when you think about this area today, what impacts do you still see from these historic government policies?
Portia Jackson: 14:51 I still see slumlords, I still see dilapidated buildings, I still see more white folks owning than black folks, even though this is our community and I see businesses that we frequent all the time that are not owned by us, you know, beauty supplies and chicken joints and all that, like we do, you know, Hook’s is right there, it’s always boomin, like people always gonna get some shrimp, you know, chicken, but we don’t own those things. So it’s just, I think, its just been so much, we’ve just been bogged down by pressure so much that we just don’t even think about doin those things.

Portia Jackson: 15:25 Like we have other communities that come here and they do all kinds of stuff and we just have this, you know, the man won’t let us do it type mentality.

Portia Jackson15:31 And it still is prevalent today.

Interviewer: 15:36 How would you describe the relationship between the City of Minneapolis and this community, north side over here?

Portia Jackson: 15:42 I feel like, I think north siders love north side. Like they ride or die north siders, they love it. I lived north and south, but I do love the north side and I feel like, you know, just cause, I think more of the police presence, because when I think of the city I think of the police, just because you know, the City is the police that’s who employs them. So I think it’s still tension, I don’t think we trust the City. I don’t necessarily trust the City to do what they say they’re gonna do or to put the money where they need to, you know Jacob, the mayor, Frye right, Jacob Frye? He said you know he was gonna give 50 million dollar for affordable housing and then a couple of weeks ago my executive director of my organization at work was there at some dinner and he kinda back pedaled a little bit.

Portia Jackson: 16:28 So it’s like, I need you to not only have a platform to stand on to campaign but I need you to continue having that same energy when you become elected.

Interviewer: 16:37 Right, right.
Portia Jackson: 16:37 So, yeah.

Interviewer: 16:39 So, if so, if you do, what are your expectations for the City of Minneapolis, related to this community? And you just said it, but I still gotta ask you, do you trust the City of Minneapolis to deliver those expectations?
Portia Jackson: 16:54 I do, like I said, of course I’m leery cause of just history and cities and politics and government, all that. But I do think Minneapolis is one of the cities that really does care about its people including black community. And its not, you know, maybe it’s not as big as I would like it to be, maybe it’s not as connected to the community as I would like it to be, but I do think that with the whole 20 year plan or 40 year plan or whatever they got, 20, 40 whatever the plan, something they got goin on now, that they’re talking about what they’re gonna be doing for the next 20 years. I do think that they, you know, you get out there and you say these things and you have to deliver.

Portia Jackson: 17:40 Its not back in the day where we just had newspapers and radio and tv, now everything’s on video, everything’s social media, if you said you gonna do something you gonna have to do it, or you gonna have to come and holla at somebody because you said you were gonna do these things and we are gonna take you to task and I think that that’s what we’re gonna do, so, I’m hoping that through this, through all these conversations and these different things that they’re changing to try to get people affordable housing and jobs and things like that, I hope that that works and I know that we’re going to make sure that if they say they gonna do something, we gonna make sure they do it.

Interviewer: 18:14 Alright, so do you trust them to do what they say they was gonna do?
Portia Jackson: 18:19 I do now because like I said it’s so much, so many people, so many eyes that if you don’t then its going to be a problem. Young people are seeing this and if you tell me you’re gonna do something, next time it’s time to get elected and you weren’t doing it, then we gonna do everything in our power not to elect you again.

Interviewer: 18:36 Right.
Portia Jackson: 18:36 So I really feel like, there’s a lot of eyes watching and a lot of people that are very passionate about these things and passionate especially about affordable housing in north Minneapolis.

Interviewer: 18:47 Okay, so, last question is what part do you feel like you could play in creating a more hopeful future for this north side area?
Portia Jackson: 18:54 Well what I’m doing, hey, I came all the way from Woodbury where I was working at and brought a home buyer club all the way to north Minneapolis, right here and the first one we did in breaking bread, the next one we did at the [inaudible 00:19:05] building, where E.C.M.N. is now

Interviewer: 19:07 Yeah
Portia Jackson: 19:07 They got a very nice meeting space so we use that space, so it’s like I am, my whole thing is education.

Interviewer: 19:13 Yeah.
Portia Jackson: 19:13 If you don’t know you can’t grow. So that’s why I start off, you know the curriculum started off with hey, this is redlining, this is what they did. They took a red and they, you know, they put a box around this and this is where we had to stay. So, and they also did this with the financial institutions, this is why you couldn’t borrow money when you know the war was done and they would do FHA loans and VA loans and GI bills and giving all these people that came home from the war this money and these houses, it wasn’t for us. Even though we qualified for every, like it was qualification was there, it wasn’t for us. Black people. So, yeah, I mean

Interviewer: 19:52 So basically getting out there, basically.
Portia Jackson: 19:53 Yeah, you have, you can’t just you have to be about it, you can’t talk about it you gotta be about it. Get out there do whatever you can, we had over 50 women graduate from the home buyer club and we had at least five people close on houses since November. And they were, and these women, you know, I don’t know if they would’ve went to a lender and asked for the money had they not come to home buyer club. Because I’m a counselor you can come to me and I can tell you hey you ready to do it.

Portia Jackson: 20:17 A lot of them was ready and just needed somebody to say it’s okay, like, I am there with you through the process and you feel like something is weird or janky, come holler at me, I’ll holler at them, I have no problem with being the bad guy. Cause I don’t want you to ever get in to a loan or something that is predatory. And that, you know, I want you to buy a house but I want you to do it the right way.

Interviewer: 20:35 Right.
Portia Jackson: 20:35 So that’s why I bring the education to the people so that they can feel empowered and know when they walk in the door, hey I want to pay 1200 dollars a month, I know at a 5.5 or 4.5 percent interest rate will get me 180. That’s what I want. Now you gonna try to give me 300 cause you wanna make this money, but I want 180 cause I wanna be able to be in this house next year and not be house poor and just working to pay for this house that I’m never in.

Interviewer: 20:57 Right.
Portia Jackson: 20:58 So that’s my whole thing is just bringing the education to people and just giving the community what it needs as far as affordable home ownership.

Interviewer: 21:05 Okay. So you play a big part. Alright.
Portia Jackson: 21:08 I try.

Interviewer: 21:11 Okay that was our last question.
Portia Jackson: 21:12 Cool.

Interviewer: 21:12 Again, my name is Lewis, nice to meet you.
Portia Jackson: 21:15 Thank you very much Lewis, I appreciate you.

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